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Monday, December 20, 2010

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

There’s a Simpsons episode where the kids participate in a focus group set up to find out why Itchy and Scratchy’s ratings are down. The kids advice seems to contradict itself, exasperating the show’s creator, who says, “So, you want a realistic, down-to-earth show…that’s completely off the wall and swarming with magical robots?”

That’s the trick neatly pulled off by Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. The show blends video game accoutrements with heartfelt emotional notes and does it without somehow devolving into absurdity or farce.

The characters in Scott Pilgrim are perhaps the most sympathetic gaggle of hipsters ever put on film. They care (too much) about music, they obsess over their place in the world, they make thoughtless mistakes that really hurt other people, and they wear stupid shirts and dye their hair. Some people will see these characters and immediately be turned off, indeed that may explain the box office receipts. But they are real, and capturing them honestly is a real accomplishment.

The film does itself a great service by accepting with total seriousness its outrageous premise. The boundary-pushing video game graphics are not just used for the fight sequences, but utilized for other purposes, including humor. (Title cards reveal information about the characters and settings, a “pee bar” shows Scott’s progress in urination.) There are other little bits spliced in as well, like the Seinfeld theme playing over a sequence in Scott’s apartment, that somehow heighten the film’s reality rather than undercut its connection to the real world.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is just a fun romp that succeeds on extra levels in order to become a more memorable movie experience.

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